Clint Bolick: Anti-Civil Rights, Anti-Public Schools Activist

Clint Bolick, President of Alliance for School Choice, likes to present himself as an advocate of education for low income children. But his biography tells a different story. Far from being interested in achieving quality education for all students, Bolick has made clear his goal of dismantling America’s public school system.

Bolick made his lack of commitment to public education clear when he said, “we intend to put the public schools on trial.” In other situations, he has even compared the public school system to the enslavement of African Americans, claiming that “school choice would lead to the greatest transfer of power from government to individuals since [slavery’s] abolition.”

Clint Bolick has dedicated his career to attacking affirmative action, desegregation, and America’s public schools. His goal has never been to improve public schools; rather, he wants to replace them with a system of private school vouchers.

Against Civil Rights

As the Vice-President and Co-founder of the Institute for Justice, Bolick has worked hard to undermine civil rights advances. In 1993 he spearheaded attacks on three of President Clinton’s nominees to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice -- Lani Guinier, Deval Patrick, and Bill Lann Lee. In all three cases, Bolick distorted the nominee’s record and attacked the nominee as an extremist because of his or her commitment to civil rights advancement.

As an attorney Bolick has paid special attention to opposing civil rights in America’s schools. Over the course of his career, Bolick has played a disturbing role in cases concerning school integration and other civil rights causes.

  • Board of Educ. v. Dowell, 498 U.S. 237 (1991) Bolick filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the plaintiff in a suit by the Oklahoma City Board of Education to dissolve a desegregation decree. The Supreme Court determined that a desegregation decree could be dissolved after a school board operated in compliance with it for a reasonable period of time.
  • Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164 (1989) Bolick filed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of the defendant in a racial harassment suit by a woman who claimed that her employer failed to promote them based on her race. The district court ruled against the plaintiff, but was partially overturned on appeal.
  • Coalition for Economic Equity v. Wilson, 122 F.3d 692 (9th Cir. 1997) A group of women and racial minorities challenged California’s Proposition 209, ending all state affirmative action programs. Again, Bolick filed a friend-of-the-court brief for the defendants (Pete Wilson, Governor of California). The Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 209.
  • Stone v. Prince George’s County Bd. of Educ., 1992 U.S.App. LEXIS 24871 (4th Cir. 1992) Bolick argued for the appellants in a case challenging the Prince George’s County School Board’s policy of assigning teachers to racially balance its school faculties. The Court of Appeals upheld the school’s policy as necessary to achieve desegregation under a previous consent decree.

National Pro-Voucher Activist

Recently, Bolick filed a lawsuit in New Jersey demanding that the court impose private school vouchers on state and local governments. Voucher proponents like to present this initiative as a new approach to school vouchers, but Bolick is no stranger to school voucher litigation and his tactics are not new. He has been involved either directly or indirectly in dozens of different voucher cases in multiple states, including two unsuccessful cases strikingly similar to his lawsuit in New Jersey.

  • In June 1992 Bolick filed suit in Chicago on behalf of a group of parents and schoolchildren to create a court-ordered voucher system. The Illinois state constitution guarantees children access to an “efficient” and “high-quality” education. Bolick claimed Chicago public schools did not meet that standard and wanted vouchers equal to the cost the state spends on each student, roughly $2,100 to $2,900 a year. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Aaron Jaffe dismissed the case in March 1993 writing, “Courts should not attempt to decide questions that rightfully belong to the legislature.” Bolick appealed the court’s ruling, but lost again in the Court of Appeals.
  • That same month, Bolick filed a lawsuit along with a group of Los Angeles parents and their schoolchildren seeking the same remedy as in the Chicago case. He used a 1971 California Supreme Court decision that ruled that education is a “fundamental right” to argue that public schools are in violation of the State Constitution and vouchers must be imposed. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge threw out the lawsuit in June 2003. Bolick appealed the Superior Court ruling, but lost again in the California Court of Appeals.
  • With regard to the Los Angeles case, syndicated columnist Clarence Page pointed out, “In fact, I find it ironic that some of the same conservative voices who rail against judicial activism overruling legislative processes in causes they don’t like, like the right to choose an abortion, are hoping and praying judicial activism will overrule legislatures on behalf of a cause that, in this instance, they like.”

A Career of Working Against Public Education

Over the course of his career Bolick has repeatedly attacked public schools. He’s shown time and time again that he isn’t interested in helping public schools in need – he’s dedicated to tearing them down.

Our country needs a public education system that works, and our children deserve it. Clint Bolick’s attacks on education are the wrong path for New Jersey and the wrong path for America’s students.

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